Smarter Than The Average Fridge

Recently I came downstairs in the morning, opened the refrigerator to get my customary glass of orange juice, and noticed that the juice was warmer than usual.  My internal sensors started sounding, and after a little checking I realized that the refrigerator didn’t seem to be cooling anything — or for that matter, working at all.

So, how to try to fix the problem?  The refrigerator is one of those big, multi-section units that was installed by the people who lived in this house before we bought it three years ago.  Given the constant advances in “smart appliance” technology, our refrigerator therefore isn’t at the head of the class, but it’s not like the simple old Norges or Amanas of my childhood, either.

It was a situation that called for some careful analysis.  After an initial examination of the device, I realized that the front display screen, which allows you to set the desired temperatures for the different sections, select cubed ice or crushed ice, and use a “power cool” feature, was illuminated.  I reasoned that that meant that the refrigerator was connected to a power source — which was a good thing because the refrigerator is much too heavy to actually move to visually check whether it was plugged in.  After feeling an initial flush of pride at my deductive powers, I then realized that the “0” in one temperature monitor part of the screen and the “FF” in an adjacent part of the screen were together spelling “0FF,” and I felt like an idiot.

I shook off the embarrassment.  A thorough examination of the interior and exterior of the refrigerator did not identify any switch or other method for turning the refrigerator back on, so the next step involved calling customer service — which was unavailable because it was a Saturday, and who would need to have a working refrigerator on the weekend?  Then it was on to the manufacturer’s website to see if it had any useful information.  There were dozens of tips on the website, but of course none that addressed our problem.  The best guess was to try to cut power to the unit, restart it a few minutes later, and see if it cycled back to the “on” position.  This allowed me to become better acquainted with the circuit breaker in the basement, but it didn’t work either.  At that point, we decided the best course was to just accept that the refrigerator wasn’t working, remove the food that was now at room temperature, and just wait until Monday to call for servicing.

On Monday, Kish called customer service, and was told that there probably had been some unnoticed overnight power surge or brief cutoff that caused the refrigerator to cycle to “off” mode, and she could restart the unit by pushing two of the buttons on the front panel simultaneously.  It worked, and we were back to having a functional refrigerator again.  I was a bit miffed, however.  Would it really have been so hard to have the two buttons to be pushed illuminated and blinking in some fashion, so we would have some clue about how to restart the device, or to have a message flash on the panel that gave us useful instruction?  Or, have clear guidance on the website advising what to do if your refrigerator is showing “0” and “FF” on the panel?  Shouldn’t a “smart” appliance provide such information under the circumstances?

Maybe I’m just mad because my refrigerator apparently is smarter than I am.

 

I Have A Dumb Refrigerator

As the world reels in the face of another computer hacking attack, this time at the hands of the “wannacry” virus, I have come to realize that my refrigerator is dumb — and I really prefer it that way.

img_4173It sounds mean to say that my refrigerator is not “smart,” but it’s true.  It’s shiny on the outside but not very bright, if you know what I mean.  It keeps our food cool, or downright frozen, and it gives us ice and cold water at the thrust of a cup, but that’s about it.  It’s not linked to the internet or controlled by an app.  It’s not programmable and tracking data about electrical usage that I can access when I’m drinking coffee at the office.  It doesn’t stream music or take verbal commands or have an inside/outside video camera or suggest recipes when we’re trying to decide what to have for dinner.

It’s embarrassing to say it, I guess, but our other key appliances — the stove, the oven, the microwave, and the washer and dryer — are pretty much equally dumb.  It’s not their fault, it’s just the way they were made.  In fact, they probably even lack the self-awareness to recognize that they are . . . different from their more gifted cousins.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure that we have any really smart devices around the house.  Our seven-year-old car has satellite radio and a GPS system, but that’s about it in the high-tech department.  These days, that’s kindergarten stuff.  Our TV allows us to access various content providers, so it’s probably at about the third-grade level.  And our 10-year-old desktop computer is so laughably backward that it might as well be sitting on a stool in the corner with a dunce cap on.

So in our household, we’re surrounded by dumbness.  But with each new hacking attack, I’m thinking that’s really not such a bad thing.  While our refrigerator might not get great test results in the smart appliance department, at least we know it’s not spying on us, or accumulating personal information that some hacker could access, or subject to being controlled by the next round of North Korean mischief.  When the next “wannacry” or “stuxnet” or “bindlehoffer” virus is sweeping the globe and paralyzing smart households, it’s reassuring to know that our refrigerator will still be purring along, keeping the cottage cheese and beer cold.